Holiday season off to a solid start as 190 million people shop Thanksgiving weekend

Key Points
  • Nearly 190 million consumers shop between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, according to the National Retail Federation.
  • The NRF says tariffs do not hurt spending during the holiday weekend.
  • By the end of the holiday weekend, 86% of consumers begin their holiday shopping, up from 77% a year ago.
Holiday shoppers take part in early Black Friday shopping deals at the Gap store in Times Square in New York.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters

The holiday shopping season has begun in earnest, with nearly 190 million consumers shopping between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, the National Retail Federation said Tuesday.

The retail trade group said that's up 14% from the same period a year ago. On average, those shoppers spent $361.90, up 16% from last year.

In October, the NRF released its initial forecast, predicting that holiday retail sales in November and December will grow between 3.8% and 4.2% from a year ago. The retail group did not revise its forecast on Tuesday.

Last year, holiday sales, excluding automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants, totaled $701.2 billion after tariffs, market volatility and other factors took a toll on sales.

The NRF, which has lobbied against tariffs, said the trade war did not hurt spending over the holiday weekend, but it estimates consumers have paid $40 billion due to increased prices stemming from tariffs already in place. President Donald Trump has threatened to impose tariffs on more Chinese goods Dec. 15 if a deal is not reached.

Half of consumers shopped at department stores, and 49% bought goods online, the NRF said. Clothing, toys and electronics were among the most popular products.

On Cyber Monday alone shoppers spent a record $9.4 billion online, according to data released by Adobe Analytics on Tuesday.

But as consumers shop more online, brick-and-mortar retailers may be having a more difficult holiday season. Shoppertrak data found that sales for brick-and-mortar stores dropped 6.2% on Black Friday. Still, the NRF found that more than 124 million consumers shopped in stores during the holiday weekend.

Consumers are also starting their shopping earlier than the typical holiday season. More than half had already started buying gifts by the beginning of November, according to the NRF.

By the end of the holiday weekend, 86% of consumers had begun their holiday shopping, up from 77% a year ago. Thanksgiving fell on Nov. 28 this year, the latest since 2013.

Hot consumer sectors going into holiday season
Hot consumer sectors going into holiday season